Artist Interview: Jennifer Anderson

posted on August 16, 2016 by
Jennifer Anderson We're so excited to have the amazingly talented printmaker Jennifer Anderson on the blog for our newest Artist Interview! Check out more of Jennifer's gorgeous work at her website,

Tell us about the subject matter/content of your work? Birds and Trees and Nests, Oh my! I’ve always loved the natural world and am very drawn to drawing. I grew up in a family of birdwatchers, so birds have been my subject since I can remember. Of course, trees and nests belong with birds and vice versa, so these have woven in to my subject matter as well. I have a very long story about embracing feminism in our feminist world, but I’ll shorten it to simply say that the birds and trees and nests (and a sprinkling of pink dresses) became icons for me, representing me and metaphors about being a woman, being a mother and the struggles and joys therein.

Tell us about how you work/your process. Lots of looking, lots of drawing, some writing. I take photos of birds and trees when I’m on my walks. I’ll use these photos for subject matter as well as ‘free’ photos I find online. I start with drawing and redrawing, working in pencil and charcoal. I usually have an idea about what I want to make: a woodcut or a drypoint (or another type of print), so how I draw my imagery is impacted by that. I play around with compositions too – maybe making something smaller or something bigger. I get impatient and I’m usually quick to go to the printmaking plate to start working. But once I’m at the plate (or wood block), I love the process of making the image. Gouging, carving, scraping – very tactile and satisfying for me. Jennifer Anderson

What medium(s) do you work with? I’m primarily a printmaker, aka: a maker of prints. Ha ha. I’ve worked in almost all printmaking mediums and have honed in on woodcuts and drypoints in the last several years because they’re the most accessible to me right now. For the past year or so, I’ve also become enamored with charcoal again – and so have been making charcoal drawings and have recently added some oil painting to those drawings.

About how many hours/day/week do you work? Time in the studio is based on so many factors. Like most artists, I work more hours and harder when I’m up against a deadline. I call these periods “mini-marathons of art-making” (I’ve never actually run in a full marathon, but I’m pretty sure I’ve done the equivalent in my studio). So, when I have a show coming up, I’ll put in 10-20 hours a week (or more) until I have things ready. But sometimes my studio doesn’t see me for days… Which is sad, so I’m trying to get better about being consistent on a regular basis. It’s tough juggling life with studio time. I don’t yet make my living by making art alone, so I have many other responsibilities that often take precedence (ahem, motherhood). I do believe there will come a day when I’m making art more than I’m not.

How do you navigate the art world? Oooo, this is a hard question. I’m not sure I do navigate the ‘art world.’ It sounds so ominous. But perhaps I navigate a small part of it. I love to visit galleries and art museums (I actually feel productive when I do that), but I also look for juried shows and calls to artists that are either in my medium or connect with my content. I try not to take rejections to heart.

What is your definition of success? I think if you’re doing what you love and experience joy from making and creating, then you are successful. Although I have to admit, I still have that nagging voice in my head that says I’m not a successful artist unless I can earn my keep with my art. I see other artists online and I think ‘how in the world did they get so many followers?’ and it makes me feel like I want to be like them… but I’m not sure that’s the definition of success either. Jennifer Anderson Where I'm Going

What inspires you? What do you read, listen to, look at, watch, eat, smell…? In the studio I need GOOD music! And dark chocolate. Those are essentials. I have an iPod full of music, but I find myself listening to the same artists over and over again. Some of my favorites are Van Morrison, Bob Geldof, Bob Dylan, Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell… there are certain pieces from each of these artists that just get me in the right frame of mind (for example: Walking Back to Happiness by Bob Geldof. If you haven’t heard it, listen to it!). I am never without dark chocolate and I love a good cappuccino. When I need inspiration to GET INTO the studio, I’ll look up other artists online, mostly printmakers and drool over their work. After I’m done being depressed that I’ll never be as good as them, I make it into the studio and tell myself I can do it. I also will sometimes just make lists in my sketchbooks instead of drawing (when the inspiration is low). Doodling and writing phrases, rearranging words can be oddly inspiring.

What else would you do if you weren’t an artist (or what do you do when you aren’t making art)? Well, I became a Mom, so I feel that is what I do when I don’t make art. But in reality, it’s what I do all the time even when I’m making art (even though my kids are young adults now, motherhood continues). Which is great, because so much of my work is about just that. But secretly, I always thought I’d make a great singer (can’t believe I’m admitting this publicly). Not that I think I can sing, but I’ve imagined myself on a stage with thousands of adoring, cheering fans. Hysterical, right?!?

What are you working on now? I can’t seem to stop making big charcoal drawings and have really focused on that all summer. I feel like I learn a little about my process and the medium every time I draw. I’m also making prints (mostly woodcuts) from some of the drawings, which is exciting because I’m trying out some new layering ideas.

How do you get yourself through dry spells, self-esteem fluctuations, deep shyness, general low periods, inertia? Hmmm, honestly I think I just try to have faith that it (the dry spell) will pass. It’s awful when you go through it, though. Luckily my life is busy in general, so there isn’t much room for wallowing. I think I am the Protestant Work Ethic (ha ha), I grew up on a farm and there is just never downtime on a farm. That’s my barometer, so if I’m in a dry spell for art I have no problem being super busy doing something else. Deep shyness is a tough one. Art openings are hard and I have often felt like I don’t know how to talk to people at my openings. So I went online and watched videos about body language and posture and ‘how not to turn someone away.’ It actually helped! At least I have more confidence now and I learned what to do with my hands when I’m talking to people. Jennifer Anderson Red Tailed

Tell us about your education and background. Self taught? Mentors? Art college? Lessons? Internet? Combo? I have a degree in Fine Art. I received a BFA in Printmaking from the University of Connecticut (the awesome printshop at UCONN is what made me change my major from graphic design). And then I hope to earn a Masters degree, but that hasn’t happened (yet!). But besides the formal education, I think I did most of my artistic development over years of working, working, working. My undergraduate work was very academic. I feel like the exciting stuff happened during independent studies and then just plain working as an artist. I was lucky enough to attend a residency at the Vermont Studio Center and one at KALA (in Berkeley). Both of these had a major impact on my work developing. And had a major impact on helping me feel like a ‘real’ artist. Jennifer Anderson A slice of Silence

Best advice you ever got? “Make a series.” I went to an artist talk years ago (when I was knee-deep in young kids, laundry, dishes and all things motherhood). At the time, I would work on individual pieces, with little connection piece to piece. There wasn’t much continuity. Then this printmaker says, ‘Make a series. Do an image at least 5 times, 5 different ways.’ That opened up a whole new world for me and it seemed so simple that I should have thought of it myself, but of course the motherhood brain was in charge, so I hadn’t ‘seen’ that idea yet. It’s great and it’s how I work.

Any feedback on the value of YAC? I wish there was a YAC when I was a teen! All three of my kids have been a part of YAC and I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact it has had on their lives and on their art. It’s amazing that there is this safe and inspiring place for young artists to start to figure out their art world. My kids became better artists and better people, with the help of Meg and Marcia’s dream … and with the amazing mentors and the program they have developed.

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